It’s setting up to be a summer of reunions. Friends, families, and loved ones are finally getting back together after the pandemic.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Rejoining those who matter most to you after more than a year of shutdowns and lockdowns isn’t just great for the SPIRIT. It’s even better for your BODY.
New research finds that too much time alone can take a physical toll on your health. It can literally leave you sickly, weak, and in need of help.
If you’ve been alone too long, this new study is your call to action. And today, I’ll help you answer that call even if you don’t have the strongest social network, to begin with.
How isolation harms your health
To be clear, loneliness was a problem for seniors long before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
Prior to the pandemic, one in four older adults was already either living in isolation or “extreme” isolation. In other words, they had little to no contact with others for long periods.
Eventually, loneliness takes a toll. But the new study finds it doesn’t kick in right away. For most folks, it’s a slow decline that’s barely even noticeable at first.
In fact, when you’re younger, social isolation has almost no effect on your physical status. But all that changes as you get older.
By the time you’re well into your senior years, isolation and loneliness can lead directly to…
- LOST independence
- MORE disability
- HIGHER risk of death
In the end, you pay the price with both your physical and mental health.
The new study looked at something called the Social Isolation Index. It’s a series of questions about marital status, friends, and connections to people around you.
Every point higher on the scale means more isolation and more loneliness. And in older folks, every point up that chart was directly connected to a decrease in the Short Physical Performance Battery. That’s a measure of a person’s physical function.
Lower scores on that one not only meant more struggles with day-to-day activity and living skills. They also indicated a higher risk of premature death.
Beat loneliness to boost your health
The researchers say these results show it’s essential to work to reduce social isolation in seniors. That’s especially vital in the oldest age groups, where the drop in physical function gets even steeper.
This means getting back out to see friends and loved ones if it’s safe to do so, even if you’re a little jittery at first. If you need a little help with that, I recently wrote about how to handle post-pandemic stress in a “new normal” world here.
And if you don’t have strong connections… if friends and loved ones have moved away or passed on… there are other options that can help end isolation and loneliness. For example, you could pay a visit to your local church and find out about what kind of activities they’re involved in.
Or volunteering is another great option. Organizations like AARP list volunteer opportunities online. And local animal shelters, soup kitchens, and kids’ organizations are always looking for help too.
Plus, don’t discount simply “hanging out” at the local senior center or library. There will be lots of opportunities to make new friends and join in on activities.
You’ll soon find that as your loneliness retreats, so will many of the physical and mental health issues you’re battling too.
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